Ennio Morricone‘s music has brought profound beauty into my life. In this video The Brothers Grimm pay tribute to the prolific Italian film composer, who passed away this year on July 6th, 2020. “Gabriel’s Oboe” is one of the hallmark pieces from his soundtrack to the 1986 film, “The Mission”. About a year ago, I had an emotionally intense performance of this piece, which has forever changed the meaning it holds in my life (read on below).
I first heard Morricone’s soundtrack for The Mission (1986) while I was studying composition in college. I was struck by the simplicity of the musical themes mixed with clever orchestration to leverage emotional climbs. I also loved that the sound of the symphony orchestra was blended together with traditional instruments of the Guaraní tribe to create such a wide ranging sonic and emotional journey. Awe and Divine Inspiration, Pain and Devastation, Unconditional Giving vs Inexcusable Wrong Doings, the Great Contradictions that reach across time are all present here. And as a cello player, it didn’t hurt that the two main themes, “Gabriel’s Oboe” and “The Falls” showed up as the first two pieces on the album, “Yo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone“. As the movie deals with events tied to racism, slavery, and religious subjugation in 1700’s South America, so will this memorial dedication meditate on grief in modern America around the persisting systems of Racism.
A special thank you to my brother AJ, who took time out of his busy end-of-semester college teaching schedule in Tokyo, Japan to record this piece with me virtually.
I will always have a special place for this music in my heart , thank you Ennio Morriconne
~ Brian Grimm
For the full length dedication to friends & families from my home town community who have lost loved ones in the past year, plus a dedication to the Black Lives Matter movement and the communities across the country who have lost their loved ones due to the ongoing American tragedy of Racism (with some options for donating to the cause); read on to the end…
Why I will be inextricably linked to this piece for the rest of my days
Last year, while in the middle of teaching cello lessons, I received a phone call from a man who had just lost his 12 year old daughter, Anna. She loved music and played french horn, but her favorite instrument was the cello. He asked me if I would come to Iowa that Saturday to play at her funeral. Of course I said yes, it would be my honor to do so. I have many students around that age and I couldn’t help but think of how sad it’d be to lose any one of them. My original plan was to head over to Iowa on Saturday to play for Anna’s funeral and then head to Chicago on Sunday to visit my Grandma Nerren. She had been in the hospital for over a week at that point and it wasn’t looking good, so I wanted to go down and play cello for her one last time.
On Saturday morning, just as I was heading out of the door to drive 4 hours and play for a 12 year old girl’s funeral – that’s when I received the call from my mother that Grandma had passed away in the night. I was devastated. I summoned my strength and concentration to make the long drive, alone, to play the funeral. Towards the end of Anna’s service, I played “Gabriel’s Oboe” by Ennio Morriconne. It was the most emotionally raw ‘performance’ I’ve ever given, I barely made it through that piece without falling apart. It was everything I could do to hold on and just play to the end. I was playing of course for Anna, who was loved so much by her family, but simultaneously I was playing for my grandma, Therese – saying good bye to her with my heart through a musical prayer. It was heavy. After the service, I found a pew in the church and had myself a good, long, messy cry. It was a very tough 4 hour drive to get back home afterwards.
About a week later, my Mom’s family gathered in Orland Park, IL for my grandma’s funeral. It was bittersweet, but we were all able to be there together to share our love for the matriarch of our family. At the service, my brother AJ and I played “Gabriel’s Oboe” together on guitar and cello. It felt so nice to have AJ’s guitar supporting my cello melodies, especially after having to do that piece solo at Anna’s funeral the week before. We don’t get to play together much anymore, so that made it even more special to me that we could play for Grandma, which she always loved.
After Grandma’s funeral, we were all heading over to the cemetery, next to the church where she had been baptized 96 years ago, to lay her to rest with the rest of her family buried there. On the drive over to the cemetery, we heard Saint-Saëns “The Swan” on the radio, which AJ and I had played at her memorial service, just minutes before. After the family luncheon we headed back to the funeral home to pick up our instruments and go over to Grandma’s house to continue spending some quality time together. My parents pulled the car up to me and my brother in the parking lot and rolled down their window, “Gabriel’s Oboe” was playing on the radio. It seemed that Grandma was letting us know that she was there at the service and had heard it all; our elegies, poems, tears, and music & she was giving some love back down to earth to comfort us in that moment as we said goodbye one last time.
Dedications of this performance to Friends and Families from my community
There are a number of families from my hometown church and music communities who have lost family members this past year. This performance is dedicated to:
The Sevallius, Finke, Zajdel & Rittmann families who I grew up with at church. To Erin and David who lost their sister and Jackie who lost her daughter, Alaina this year. This one stopped me in my tracks when I found out (directly before a gig), I was shocked and saddened to hear of Alaina’s death. It’s hard to comprehend a loss such as this seeing as she was still so young and leaves behind a family. Also that it should come so close on the heels of losing a grandfather & father, Bill Finke last year. I’ll always remember Bill’s big smile & laugh and how Alaina kept us younger kiddos in line, she always felt like a big sis to me.
To Katie, Jason & Joe Rohn who just recently lost their father, Gary. He was kind of like a gentle giant to me growing up, it was always a pleasure to talk with him. You all have the best laughs and I can rarely think of a time that we weren’t laughing together! So it is especially hard to know that you are all going through the pain of losing a father.
And to the show stopping, dynamic comedic entertainer Nick Daering, who AJ and I both had so many good times with over the years, I was very sorry to hear about the loss of your father this year. We’ve been thinking about you buddy and are long over due for a proper catch up!
To one of the sweetest people I know, Sarah Jane, who was my stand-partner in high school orchestra, I was sorry to hear of the loss of your mother, Theresa, last year. I know she faced many challenges throughout her life and that she was very special to you. I can’t believe it’s already been a year, time seems to slip through my fingers these days.
I had the honor of playing cello at both Sarah and Katie’s weddings in past years, I’m glad that I was able to be a part of those joyous occasions.
And to another one of my cello stand-partners in WAYO, Andrea and her mother Lauren Beale, who lost their father/husband Marshall last year. Again, I can’t believe it’s already been over a year and I know the relationship with that grief starts to evolve and change after that ‘year of firsts’. I’m especially sorry that he won’t be around to see Gabriel continue to grow and share those experiences with you. I’m glad our families have shared so much good music together over the years.
Andrea and I had the same private cello teacher, Janet Marshall, who passed away in November of 2019. Janet, I owe you so much and there aren’t enough words to describe the impact you had on my life! I will love and miss you forever, you were like a grandma to me.
To my bandmate Chad Canfield and his family who lost his Grandma this year, I know she played a huge part in your life. Rest assured my friend that she’s keeping watch over you and Marcus too.
My heart goes out to all of you and your family members, grief can come in waves and be unpredictable. You’ve all played a meaningful part in my life, so AJ and I would like to dedicate this music to you.
Dedications of this performance to the Black Lives Matter movement
All of the people listed above were folks from my own community that I grew up with, but my mourning doesn’t just stop at the edges of my personal community. My heart also goes out to anyone who is still mourning the unnecessary deaths of the recently taken, like Elijah McClain, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Atatiana Jefferson, Aura Rosser, Stephon Clark, Botham Jean, Philando Castile Alton Sterling, Michelle Cusseaux, Freddie Gray, Janisha Fonville, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and many countless others. I dedicate this performance to you, your families, and your local communities. I hope this music can bring to you a moment of comfort, whether brief or lasting, and a reflective remembrance of a loved one’s impact on your life.
To anyone in the white community at large and specifically anyone from the community where I grew up: if you are having a hard time understanding why we have needed a movement like Black Lives Matter or your immediate reaction is to reject the movement, I challenge you to open your heart and find an empathetic understanding through grief. Grief is a universal human experience. Whatever grief I feel when we have lost a loved one in my community is the same grief I feel when I hear about someone in the black community loosing their brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters due to the many persisting systems of Racism. Especially when many black people are struck down so publicly and without hesitation by those sworn to protect. However the communal grief and mourning surrounding these deaths is compounded by generation after generation after generation after generation after generation after generation of unjust and unfair treatment from the white community and the US government and law enforcement and the legal system and housing discrimination and education discrimination and lack of employment opportunities and food inequity and all of the systems of racism woven into the fabric of this country. No matter how hard I might try to imagine, I can never truly understand the depth of grief a black person feels in these situations. But as is clear by the family and friends dedication listed up above, every community loses their loved ones – and for white people who don’t yet understand that Black Lives Matter: grief and community-mourning is certainly one way to begin to understand what the African American community goes through every time there’s another public murder of one of their community members (especially when those responsible not held to account). All of the people we’ve lost this way are family members too, not just some abstract black person that the news media chooses to paint one way or the other. Their absence causes a heavy ripple effect, touching many lives, just as losing anyone in your community does.
White people need to step up and do the work. White people need to seek out ways to listen & learn so we can create lasting, positive, anti-racist change within our communities and professions. I am saying all of this as a white person who has lived with immense privileges. This message is for me too, there’s always room for improvement and growth. We have to keep the conversation going and continue to put in the work.
I believe in the power of beautiful music such as Ennio Morricone’s to bring positive change in this world. If you agree and appreciate the performance of this piece that AJ and I have given, I encourage you to donate to any of the following organizations or any Black Lives Matter related causes you know of which will impact your community directly.
Donate & Support BLOC Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (Milwaukee): https://populardemocracy.org/our-partners/black-leaders-organizing-communities
There’s one race, the human race
and we’ve got to work together to make tomorrow better.